An alcoholic estate clearer without an investigator’s license agrees anyway to search for a missing addict who’s anything but.
Halfway through his life, Jay Porter already seems to have blown it all. An ex–insurance claims investigator, ex-drinker, and ex-husband, he’s fighting to stay sober and avoid becoming an ex-father to Aiden, the 6-year-old son whose custody he lost when his marriage ended. When his high school classmate Amy Lupus emerges from the shadows of an AA meeting to ask him to look for her sister Emily, who checked out of the Coos County Center against medical advice, Porter (Give Up the Dead, 2017, etc.) doesn’t think of the job as another chance at redemption, or even as a fat paycheck, but as chance to stick it to Adam and Michael Lombardi, the politically ambitious brothers who run the Coos County Center. For what it’s worth, he’s right about the redemption part. He has no trouble figuring out that Emily was faking her addiction in order to get access to the Lombardis’ facility for an exposé she was writing under the mentorship of Paul Grogan, a reporter for the Berlin Patch. But that’s where the trail ends. Grogan’s no longer working for the Patch; Emily is found with her neck broken at the base of Lamentation Mountain; and the only person Porter ends up getting close to is his client, with whom he enjoys some torrid interludes before she and Dan, the heroin-using boyfriend who wants to be called Hooch, are found dead of overdoses themselves. With so many of the frail ties holding him to Earth severed, Porter’s chances of exposing the nasty doings of the Lombardi brothers look slimmer than ever.
The lack of surprise, suspense, and even much action makes this entry more depressing than cathartic. Give Clifford an A for alcoholic rumination, B-minus for character development, and D for plotting.